How to Play “Greenlight” by Lorde

Jordan Leibel  /  Pop/Rock  /  UPDATED Jan 12, 2023

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Lorde is one of the best songwriters making music these days. When ‘Greenlight’ was released as a single, it became an instant fav of mine. And when that piano riff comes in to introduce the chorus, I just knew I had to learn it. So without further adieu…

Look, I don’t wanna Lorde it over you…but have you been practicing your scales?

The Verse Chords  

The opening chords for this song are really simple, consisting of long drawn out notes that leave plenty of room for the melody. If you want to follow along with that melody, all you have to do is play is an F#m chord, followed by an A chord and then move down to the D chord. As you practice these chords listen for the mood these chords produce. Does the progression sound a little dark and moody to you? That’s because the verse starts on that F#m chord, which is a minor chord. Oftentimes, the first chord in a progression will dictate that part of the song’s mood or feeling. It’s a great idea to really listen to how a verse or chorus makes you feel, as that will give you some hints on that the chords might be.  

Since these chords are so simple, you can play them as written, or try out different inversions if you’re looking for a different sound or challenge. You can even play the triads in your left hand and use your ear to figure out the melody in the right hand if you want to play an entirely instrumental version of the song!  

Wouldn’t it be freaky if Lorde could hear sounds in your mind?

The Prechorus

The prechorus of this song switches up the chords a little bit, starting on an E chord before moving down to play a D chord and then jumping up to play an F#m chord.

These chords are presented in just simple triad format. Since you’re probably already familiar with these chords, you can use this as an opportunity to listen for the changes. Again, take the time to hear for any mood shift that the chords produce. The prechorus contains that new E chord, which is a new one for the song. Pay special notice to that this new chord brings to the table!

You’ve gotten this far…can you master Lorde’s iconic piano part in the chorus?

The Chorus

The chorus is my favourite part of this song. It contains a really cool keyboard riff that’s a ton of fun to play. To play this section, start off look at just the chords. The first chord in the progression is a G chord, followed by a D chord and finally landing on an A chord. If you play these chords, you’ll hear how the progression sounds so much brighter than the verse and prechorus. That’s because it’s using only major chords! It’s amazing how powerful the minor chord is in a song like this. Just one minor chord can totally alter the feeling of a chord progression.  

Once you get the chords down, you’ll want to shift the work on your right hand part to get the whole thing down. To visualize the right hand, put your hands on each chord in root position. The melody part moves from each chords 2nd note (the one above the root) to its 3rd to create that piano movement.

If you want to visualize it in terms of chord names, each chord starts on a sus2 chord before resolving on the traditional triad. It’s a great technique to make a really simple chord progression sound more complex and sophisticated, so once you’ve finished practicing this part, try this movement on some of your other favourite chords.

Putting It All Together

This song is a great song to learn if you’re an aspiring songwriter. It’s a perfect example of how far you can take simple chords if you know how to apply them as effectively as you can. Take the chorus part hands together if you have to, keep your ears open, and most importantly…have FUN!

Jordan Leibel is passionate about songwriting, improvisation, and helping you become a creative musician! He’s worked as a composer for film, commercial, and theatre projects as well as a session musician and producer for recording work.

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